Here’s something almost everyone knows, to some extent. All of us have been trained for the last five decades or more to think self-denial leads to good health. That’s really what most diet fads boil down to. We are told if we give up these tasty things we will live forever. In another age, food took on more magical properties and ever-lasting life was in the after-life for those who followed the rules in this life. The magical properties of food are still popular among the organic crowd. They will harangue you all night over the benefits of organic or all-natural food, even though there is no science to it.
Vegetarians may have a lower BMI and drink alcohol sparingly, but vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts.
A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.
Vegetarians were twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer.
The cross-sectional study from Austrian Health Interview Survey data and published in PLos One examined participants dietary habits, demographic characteristics and general lifestyle differences.
The most significant dietary habit difference between meat-eaters and vegetarians concerned their BMI and alcohol consumption – with both being higher for those who consume meat.
Many past studies have instead put an emphasis on the health risks associated with red meat and carnivorous diets, but this study points the other dietary direction. However, the researchers do caution that continuing studies will be needed to substantiate some of the rather broad dietary distinctions, associations presented in this current research.
Overall, vegetarians were found to be in a poorer state of health compared to other dietary groups. Vegetarians reported higher levels of impairment from disorders, chronic diseases, and “suffer significantly more often from anxiety/depression.”
Subjects who consumed lower amounts of animal fat were also linked to poor health care practices, such as avoidance of vaccinations and a lack of preventive care.
Most likely, people drawn to food cults are a bit crazy. Their diet is a form of self-medication. The discipline of maintaining one of these diets provides structure in their life, which carries over to other areas. That’s what these guys may be picking up in the study. It is not that plant eating makes you crazy. It’s that crazy people are more likely to go for plant eating as a way to self-medicate. That’s the theory behind the various “cleanse” scams running through the health food world.
Regardless, as a matter of science we know humans have evolved eating a range of foods. Meat, fish, dairy and wild greens were the primary foods for most of human history. Early man was living almost entirely on meat and fish. About 12,000 years ago humans started to figure out how to grow plant food and raise food animals. Man domesticated sheep, goats, cows, and pigs about 15,000 years ago. The opportunity to feed large numbers of people year round with plant food only goes back a few thousand years. That means humans evolved for almost all of its time as meat eaters.